What We Do in the Shadows (2015)
What We Do in the Shadows (2015)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.

Release Date: February 13th, 2015 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi Actors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Ben Fransham, Jackie van Beek, Elena Stejko, Jason Hoyte, Chelsie Preston Crayford

 


 

E

very few years, a secret society in New Zealand gathers for a grand celebration: The Unholy Masquerade. For this upcoming event, a documentary crew was granted full access to a small portion of the group. For their protection, each of the filmmakers wore a crucifix and was granted protection from their subjects: real life vampires. This premise could have made for a by-the-books, found-footage horror film. Instead, it’s used for outrageous comedy.

Viago (Taika Waititi), a 379 year-old vampire, is the leader of a secluded flat, where several other nocturnal characters slumber. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), a 183 year-old former Nazi vampire, hasn’t done the bloody (literally) dishes for five years, which upsets his flatmates. Petyr (Ben Fransham) is the eldest, looking unmistakably like a pointy-eared, long-toothed, pasty-skinned, bald-headed Nosferatu type. And Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), having lived over 800 years, used to be a rather vicious sort, torturing and slaying his enemies – though he attributes his previous predilections to a bad mental state.

Currently, these four vampires are preparing for a night out on the town. As they try on some fashionable clothes (aiming for the “dead but delicious” look), hit up a club, employ familiars for various chores, and seduce victims for feasting, the documentary crew manages to shed some light on this rarely seen faction of preternatural creatures. Some are lovelorn, while others are a bit sullen over no longer being in their prime, but they all still play together in a band and pursue specific hobbies (such as erotic dancing).

Since “What We Do in the Shadows” is a mockumentary, this gang of vampires is unusually inept. And this candid exhibition of maladroitness is continually hilarious. From flying to drinking blood to accidentally causing victims to transition into new vampire recruits, these particular subjects are unable to avoid slapstick-oriented bungling, proceeding to engage in clumsy chases, unintentionally messy feeding sessions, and moody fights with werewolves. They can’t seem to stay out of trouble – though the trouble is their general sloppiness in being effective night-stalkers.

Quite comically, the film exposes legendary monsters to be rather regular people – or a dysfunctional assemblage of ordinary morons. As they bicker among themselves, experiment with the wrong kinds of foods, reminisce about the good ol’ days, and struggle to maintain their secret existences, their normalcy grows ever more apparent. Vampires just want to go about their businesses in peace. The concept and many of the individual skits are laugh-out-loud funny, though the writing/directing team of Clement and Waititi can’t quite sustain the level of creativity from the start. The documentary aspect gradually disappears, while some repetition and a few incongruous (and disjointed) ideas (the introduction of zombies is almost too silly to fit in, as if more than one mythological entity pushes the suspension of belief past its limits) slow down the pacing. The execution could use some refining, but the comedy elements are surely sound. And the werewolf costuming and special effects toward the conclusion are impressive enough even for a serious horror endeavor.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10